The first Academy Awards celebration—and after-party—was a jazzy tale of two hotels.
My fair Mayfair: This spring, the “star” venue of the first Oscars after-party, in 1929—attended by glitterati of the day such as (from left) Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joan Crawford, William Haines, and Robert Montgomery—is reborn downtown.
In the spring of 1929, in a little burb called Hollywood, the first Academy Awards presentation, a “family-style” affair for 270 guests in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel, brought out the movie industry’s movers and shakers and flappers to honor 12 honorees with that famous gold statuette (not yet nicknamed “Oscar”). After a dinner of Consommé Célestine, Filet of Sole Sauté au Beurre, Broiled Chicken on Toast, and New String Beans farmed just down Vine Street in the endless patchwork of bean fields that then crisscrossed the city, the jazz-era luminaries du jour, including Best Actress Janet Gaynor, Best Dramatic Director Frank Borzage, and Best Comedy Director Lewis Milestone (this was the first and only time the Academy split the “best director” award thusly), as well as presenters Cecil B. DeMille, Mary Pickford, and performer Al Jolson, fêted and feasted late into the evening.
After the awards were presented and lugubrious addresses concluded, the real party began downtown at the glamorous new Mayfair Hotel, where the white-tie-and-gown crowd kicked up their heels in Gatsby-era abandon, silent stars chatting away over their bourbon cocktails with “talkie” upstarts such as Pickford’s stepson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and his flashy new fiancée, chorus girl-turned-It girl Joan Crawford.
This spring, the Mayfair, the site of that very first Oscars after-party, is reopening after a multi-million dollar redesign by award-winning architect Gulla Jónsdóttir, who is paying tribute to the Hollywood opulence of yesteryear (updated with modern amenities, of course). Could the ghosts of Tinseltown’s very first titans lure Oscars-party heavyweights Graydon, Harvey, and Elton to revisit Downtown one day, once again? The envelope, please…